Clinton 'groupies' gear up for campaign season

Posted at 7:16 AM, Sep 10, 2015

CINCINNATI -- They met while pounding campaign signs in hard lawns and making phone calls to win the votes of strangers. 

For months these seven women spent more time together at a Wyoming phone bank trying to get Hillary Clinton elected to the White House than they spent with their own husbands.

So it was a sad day on June 7, 2008, when Clinton suspended her campaign and endorsed Barack Obama as the Democratic nominee for president.

As the women passed around tissues and wound up phone cords, they wondered if they would ever see each other again.

“Let’s meet for coffee; let’s stay in touch,” Michele Mueller, of Delhi, remembered saying.

And once a week, every single week, for more than seven years, they have done just that.

They call them “Hillary’s Coffees” -- when they meet at College Hill Coffee Company and Casual Gourmet to talk about families, vacations, new jobs, weddings and funerals. But their most frequent topic is their common bond:  Hillary Clinton.

Photo by Phil Didion, WCPO contributor

“I’m like a groupie. My husband says I’m going to need therapy if this (2016 election) doesn’t work out well,” Mueller said, chuckling.

The women, who range in age from 65 to 88, are giddy that campaign season is beginning again, and that Clinton will have another chance at the presidency.

Most of the group will volunteer at the “Women for Hillary” event in Columbus on Thursday morning. The public event was originally scheduled for Cincinnati, but now Clinton will only stop here for a private fundraising luncheon afterward.

Not that it bothered these ladies a bit.

“We just get in the car and go where the events are,” Mueller said.

Mueller, 65, and Joyce Shrimplin, 69, of Lebanon, were on hand when Clinton came to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland on Aug. 27. They canvassed the line, talking to young students and asking them to sign loyalty pledges to Clinton.

After all of these years, and so many campaign events, the newness has never worn off.

“It’s like your first event,” Mueller said.

Souvenirs and Scrapbooks

Their campaign souvenirs are like treasures.

Photo by Phil Didion, WCPO contributor

A pin that Chelsea Clinton signed. Their old volunteer flip phones that Hillary Clinton autographed with a black marker. And a scrapbook that contains copies of their old phone bank scripts and photos of themselves at rallies.

Most of them attended at least seven of Clinton’s speeches throughout Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio during her last presidential campaign.

“This is the first time in my lifetime that we will have a woman for president,” said Ena Wilson, 88, of Wyoming. “I was terribly disappointed that it did not happen last time. But now I get a second chance. I wasn’t expecting a second chance.”

This group of six women (one of their original members moved away) say they will do whatever it takes to get Clinton to the White House this time.

“I love going door to door,” said Florence McGraw, 84, of Sharonville. “I just hope my legs keep going. I’m like a horse in a barn come Labor Day. I’m ready to go!”

She carries a hammer and screwdriver in the trunk of her SUV and uses them to pound campaign signs into front yards. Her friends brag that she can canvas an entire voting precinct, walking door to door, faster than anyone else in the group.

Her love of campaigning and politics began as a child, when her grandmother fought for women’s rights and Eleanor Roosevelt was talked about at the dinner table. She remembers her mother pulling her in a wagon as a toddler while she passed out campaign literature in their Norwood neighborhood.

“I just couldn’t be more proud. In all of my 84 years, no one has ever been more qualified to run for president,” McGraw said.

The Last Barrier for Women: Presidency

They all got a dreamy look in their eyes when a reporter asked them, one by one, to describe what they liked about Clinton.

Joyce Shrimplin talks about the group and what it is they do for Clinton and for each other. Photo by Phil Didion, WCPO contributor.

McGraw remembered the first time she saw Hillary Clinton, back in 1991 at a campaign event at Music Hall with her husband, Bill, when he was running for president. She was so impressed that she called her daughter afterward.

“'We’re running the wrong one,’ I told her. Hillary should be the one running for president,” she said.

Shrimplin has been a fan since Clinton was the first lady of Arkansas, and was especially impressed with her work to help children early in her career.

They like that she’s a fighter who cares about working families, ending poverty and gun violence, and easing student debt.

“I believe her when she looks at us and says ‘I will fight for you,’” Mueller said. “She’s the most qualified person for president -- who happens to be a woman. We will knock on every door until we knock on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and they let us in.”

In the coming weeks, the group will reserve hotel rooms in Washington, D.C. for inauguration weekend in January 2017. Just in case.

“I’m going to bring my ball gown,” said Christine Zevon, 65, of White Oaks.

“I’m going to cry like a baby,” McGraw said.